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Zotero - Collect, Organize, Cite and Share your Research Sources: Archival Research

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.

How to use Zotero for Archival Research

Step 1: Decide how to organize your archival sources in Zotero.

There are numerous ways to organize your archival sources in Zotero. You will need to find the strategy that best matches your research methodology.

"Remember, how you organize your data will have a profound effect on your thinking." (Galarza, Alex. “Zotero in the Archives.” GradHacker. Accessed December 17, 2013.

Here is one example of how a Zotero library could be organized for archival research:

Here is how this structure appears in Zotero:

Step 2: Think of Zotero as your archival research log.

A best practice of Archival Research is to keep a research logA research log might be kept in Excel or a word processing program and could look like this:


Organizing your archival research in Zotero allows you to transform your research log into a personalized research database. The fields that a research log includes are also part of Zotero. Here is a visual representation of how your research log could be mapped to Zotero.

Item Types for Archival Research

Step 3: Best practices for using Zotero Item Types for archival materials. 

Note: Zotero will release updates in 2014 that will include new fields that are specific to archival research.

  • To cite an archival collection as a whole (e.g. Julia Child papers, 1925-1993), use the Item Type Manuscript as shown below.

To cite items within an archival collection (e.g. letter, Julia Child to Paul Child, 1945), it is best to use the Item Type that most closely resembles the material being cited. Note: If there is not an acceptable match in the Item Type list, do not use Document (the citation output for Document does not include all of the fields necessary to cite archival material). Revert to Manuscript.


Zotero Fields Cheat Sheet

Each item in your Zotero library has Fields.These fields provide information about the item that Zotero uses to create citations. 

  • This cheat-sheet shows how to use fields so that Zotero creates accurate citation information for archival materials.

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